A Virginia state lawmaker is serving time behind bars following an alleged tryst with his former receptionist when she was 17, but voters didn’t let that stop them from re-electing him to the state legislature in a special election Tuesday.
Joseph Morrissey, 57, a former Democrat who renounced his party and ran as an independent following the scandal, celebrated his victory from the unlikeliest of locations: Virginia's Henrico County Regional Jail East.
When asked whether he would have ever imagined hearing the news from jail, Morrissey told a reporter for a videotaped interview, "No, no I wouldn't."
Convicted in December on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Morrissey entered an “Alford plea” maintaining his innocence but acknowledging the courts had enough evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt. The move helped him avoid a possible felony conviction at trial.
The victim, now 18, has publicly defended Morrissey, rejected prosecutors’ claims that the two had sex, and accused her family of manufacturing the scandal. Her nude photo was found on Morrissey’s cell phone.
Morrissey previously announced he would resign from office effective Tuesday, the date of the special election that he just won.
Now that he's been voted back into office, he plans to complete his duties on work release. He currently wears an electronic monitoring device during the day and spends his nights behind bars.
Morrissey told The Associated Press that the election results prove his constituents aren’t interested in his personal life.
"They're interested in my body of work in the General Assembly," Morrissey told the AP. "People hate negative campaigns.”
But unlike the voters, his colleagues aren’t exactly rallying around the disgraced lawmaker.
Morrissey’s conviction “disqualifies him from serving,” Minority Leader David Toscano said in a statement. “For the good of the General Assembly and the Commonwealth, he should immediately resign, and we are actively exploring all available options, including removal, if he does not.”
Asked about his colleagues’ intention to oust him, Morrissey told a reporter, “It’s like a wrestling match -- you wrestle one match at a time.”